Scouting Week 1 DuPage County football games

  • Ryan Spickerman makes a tackle for Naperville Central last year against Naperville North. The Redhawks open the season Friday with a challenging matchup against Hinsdale Central.

      Ryan Spickerman makes a tackle for Naperville Central last year against Naperville North. The Redhawks open the season Friday with a challenging matchup against Hinsdale Central. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/26/2022 9:29 AM

Hinsdale Central at Naperville Central

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

 

Last matchup: Naperville Central 14, Hinsdale Central 2 (at Hinsdale, 2021)

About Hinsdale Central: A marquee Week 1 matchup for sure, with two teams that both went to the second round of the state playoffs a year ago. Hinsdale Central is the defending West Suburban Conference Silver Division champion. "Hinsdale Central is such a great opponent to open our season with," Naperville Central coach Mike Ulreich said. "They are fundamentally sound on defense and they run so well to the ball. They have always played with great pad level. Looking back on last year's game, our offense needed to do a better job of staying ahead of the sticks and putting our defense in better situations. When you play a Hinsdale Central, you have to win as a team and play complimentary football. So there will be a lot of hidden yardage when it comes to field position and starting drives in a more advantageous position." Five starters return on offense and six on defense for a Hinsdale Central program that went unbeaten in the West Suburban Silver for the second year in a row and reached the playoff's second round. Senior QB Billy Cernugel, who led the Red Devils to nine straight wins last season, is back. It remains to be seen if there is a QB rotation with Ben Monahan, who started the Week 1 game with Naperville Central last season but tore his ACL in the game. Whoever is at the controls will have talent outside in Carter Contreras and Reese Kolke. Hinsdale Central's strength defensively, at least its experience, rests in the secondary, although Joe Boggs returns at linebacker and Sean Lynch up front.

About Naperville Central: Speaking of pad level, Ulreich likes how his team looks in that category, as well as the physicality aspect. "We have some young guys we need to bring along, so we are going to have to rely on our offensive and defensive lines to win games, he said. Maverick Ohle at defensive end is someone Ulreich notes is worth watching. "He can help reestablish the line of scrimmage and hopefully make it difficult to throw the ball down field," he said. And if it gets thrown down the field, Ryan Spickerman at safety is there. "Ryan had a great summer and will be pivotal in getting everyone lined up and tracking the football," Ulreich said. Tyler Dodd's versatility on offense will also bolster the Redhawks. "Tyler is a dynamic athlete in space," Ulreich said. "He can contribute both running and catching the football."

Metea Valley at Geneva

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: Geneva 20, Metea Valley 15 (at Metea Valley, 2021)

About Metea Valley: Noah Larson will have key roles on both sides of the ball for the Mustangs at quarterback and linebacker. "The offense will revolve around him as well as him playing a key role on our defense," Metea Valley coach John Parpet said. Parpet calls linebacker Evan Hall "the quarterback of the defense," he said. "Evan needs to play a great game for us to be successful." Two-way player Ryan Brown (RB-LB) also will be counted on. "Ryan will need to be more of an impact on offense in Week 1 due to injuries along with playing linebacker," he said. Parpet said strength is at a premium after a focused offseason. "Our strength from a year ago is very apparent," he said. "This was our first offseason with the kids and it is really showing with their confidence."

About Geneva: The Vikings are coming off a 2021 season where they went to the second round of the playoffs. "Geneva is a well-coached team that relies on being physical in all three phases," Parpet said. "We will need to match their physicality and play great team football."

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Waubonsie Valley at Oswego East

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: Oswego East 17, Waubonsie Valley 7 (At Waubonsie 2021)

About Waubonsie Valley: Two big keys on either side for the Warriors are Mason Ringenbach and Amir Spikener. "Mason will be key to getting the defense in position to try and contain Oswego East's offense," Waubonsie Valley coach Tom Baumgartner said. "Amir is going to be big in the run game and our attempt to move the ball each time we get it." Baumgartner also is high on Luke Elsea. "Going into his second season on varsity, he really has worked hard to refine his game," he said. "I am looking forward to seeing his progress in leading our offense." Baumgartner likes the potential he has seen since June. "We really have come a long way," he explained. "We have kids with zero to little varsity experience that we will need to grow up quick. We do have talent, we just need to get the kids in the right spots week in and week out."

About Oswego East: The Wolves, out of the Suburban Prairie West, made the playoffs a year ago as a 6-3 team. "Oswego East is a darned good football team and program," Baumgartner said. "They have a great quarterback coming back along with a ton of skill and a good offensive line. Defensively, they shut us down last year so we need to figure them out on that side of the ball. They are also strong in the kicking game. We will need to try and contain their offense, move the ball and score on our offensive side, and minimize mistakes that we can control ourselves."

Neuqua Valley at Oswego

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: Neuqua Valley 37, Oswego 27 (at Neuqua Valley, 2021)

About Neuqua Valley: Here's something scary to contemplate. Neuqua went 10-2 last year, advancing to the state quarterfinals. "Last year we were very young and this year we have experience with 17 returning starters," Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus said. "Our team has made big strides in the offseason in the weight room and understanding what we are asking of them on both sides of the ball." When it comes to experience, Cole Dutkovich, Grant Larkin and Mark Mennecke have it in spades, all entering their third varsity seasons. "I think the obvious three players to watch would be Cole, Grant and Mark," Ellinghaus said. "However, we have six kids who have all played varsity as sophomores and are all going into their third season."

About Oswego: The Panthers also made the playoffs a year ago and tied for the Southwest Prairie West title with Plainfield North. "Oswego has great football tradition and has been a powerhouse within their conference," Ellinghaus said. "They have some great returning starters who we will need to pay special attention to. Obviously their tight end (6-6, 227-pound Deakon Tonielli, who is headed to Michigan) is a player who will be a tough matchup for any team."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Homewood-Flossmoor at Naperville North

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

About H-F: "H-F is a physical team with great team speed and an experienced quarterback," Naperville North coach Sean Drendel said. "We will have to play great, sound team defense to take away any open seams. On offense, we need to play our game and pressure them by forcing them to defend the whole field."

About Naperville North: Naperville North opened last year against Benet Academy, but shifts gears this year to H-F, which went 4-5 a year ago. Drendel likes how his first two lines of defense are shaping up. "Our defense, especially our front seven, is relentless," he said. "We have many players who just keep coming at you." Outside linebackers David Jones and Luke Keough "just love to hit and play the game," Drendel pointed out. "They are old-school players and great tacklers." In the offensive backfield, look for the trifecta of Nate Jacobs, Danny Eloe and Cole Arl to contribute. "All will be a huge part of what we do and interchanged often," Drendel said.

Montini at IC Catholic Prep

When: 7:15 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: IC Catholic 17, Montini 15 (2021)

About the Broncos: Montini is surely eager to bounce back from an uncharacteristic season -- the Broncos missed the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Third-year QB Cole Teschner has a ton of talent to throw to outside with Julian Turner, who had more than 50 catches last year, Mingo Nixon, Trey Barrett and sophomore Donovan Olugbode, who already holds offers from Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa. Alex Marre, who played in a handful of games last year before a broken leg, figures to be the lead back with 1,000-yard rusher Joshua Robinson's transfer to Bolingbrook. Crazy to say being Week 1, but this could be a must win for Montini's playoff hopes given the gauntlet awaiting in the last four weeks -- Marist, Providence, Nazareth and Joliet Catholic.

About the Knights: IC Catholic, which has reached the state semifinals five times since 2015, must also be anxious to get started after a devastating end to last season. The Knights lost to eventual Class 3A champion Byron 15-14 on a touchdown run and two-point conversion in the final minute. This game is the second game in the resumption of a series between former Suburban Parochial Conference rivals, following the Knights' close win last year. Junior WR/FS KJ Parker, who holds offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Wisconsin, is an electric talent and a top target for junior and third-year starting QB Dennis Mandala. Senior RB Malik Gray, who ran for over 1,000 yards last season, also returns. Quite a start to the season for the Knights with Montini and a visit to defending Class 4A state champion Joliet Catholic.

Glenbard West at Marist

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Last matchup: First known meeting

About the Hilltoppers: The strength starts up front for the Hilltoppers, who return all five starters in what has been touted as the biggest, and perhaps the best, offensive line that head coach Chad Hetlet has had. 305-pound Wisconsin recruit Chris Terek anchors a line that averages 250 pounds across the board. That group is well suited for what the Hilltoppers like to do best -- ground and pound -- with speedy senior running back Joey Pope, who ran for over 1,000 yards last season with close to 2,000 all-purpose yards. Senior QB Korey Tai and junior receiver JuJu Ellens are both third-year varsity players. Senior middle linebacker Jack Oberhofer leads a defense that could start six juniors. Glenbard West is ranked third in the Associated Press Class 8A preseason poll.

About the RedHawks: The RedHawks have reached the Class 8A semifinals the last three playoffs, losing in that last round each season -- last fall to Maine South by two points. Marist is ranked eighth in the Associated Press Class 8A preseason poll. Senior Dermot Smyth, backup QB to Dontrell Jackson Jr. the last two seasons, takes over behind center. His top target is senior WR Ryan Sims, a Miami (Ohio) commit, who had 759 receiving yards and 10 TDs last season. Senior CB John Nestor, an Iowa recruit, and senior DL Jamel Howard Jr., a Wisconsin commit, are players to watch defensively.

Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Simeon

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, at Gately Stadium

Last matchup: Wheaton Warrenville South 33, Simeon 6 (1996)

About the Tigers: Braylen Meredith, a 6-foot-5 receiver who was a start on WW South's sectional final basketball team, is a player to watch for a Tigers' team that returns a fair amount of skill-position players. Fellow receiver Colin Moore and junior running back Matthew Crider also return. James Sok and Brahm Rozanski have competed for the starting QB job over the summer and in the preseason. This looks like an important game for the Tigers early with Neuqua Valley next in the non-conference before entering the DuKane Conference ringer.

About the Wolverines: Simeon has made 20 consecutive playoff appearances as one of the Public League's better football programs, the last nine under head coach Dante Culbreath. Senior wide receiver Malik Elzy is the player to watch. The eighth-ranked senior in Illinois is committed to Cincinnati. Western Michigan commit Angelo Stockstill is another to keep an eye on.

Downers Grove North at Hoffman Estates

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Downers Grove North 24, Hoffman Estates 21 (2021)

About the Trojans: Downers Grove North is no doubt motivated to get back out there after dropping their last four games of 2021 to narrowly miss the playoffs. Nine starters return on offense and six on defense, with seven third-year starters. Senior receiver Ethan Thulin, who caught 45 passes for 650 yards and seven TDs, is one of those three-year starters and the player to watch. Senior QB Sam Reichert is another third-year starter with defensive end Ben Bielawski anchoring the defense.

About the Hawks: Hoffman Estates last season won its first conference title since 1994 and returns QB Aiden Cyr, who directed an offense that averaged over 37 points per game last season. Junior running back junior Quincy Williams, who played at Hoffman before moving to Florida, has come home. The Hawks' receiving corps is deep, its secondary talented and athletic.

Downers Grove South at Wheaton North

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Wheaton North 50, Downers Grove South 0 (2021)

About the Mustangs: Downers Grove South returns six starters on offense and five on defense from a young team that played 19 sophomores at one point last season but still won its last five regular-season games to reach the playoffs. Tight end/defensive end Mack O'Halloran is a two-way standout with offers from Central Michigan and Army. QB Ryan Dawson, like O'Halloran, is a three-year starter and 6-foot-5 tight end Brandon Amenionpong an Indiana State commit. Linebacker Keandra Miles and safety Will Potters are players to watch defensively. The Mustangs have a brutal first four games -- Wheaton North, Glenbard West, Downers Grove North and Willowbrook -- that they need to survive.

About the Falcons: The Falcons no doubt will look quite different from the team that won the Class 7A state championship last November. Several key players graduated, notably three-year starting QB Mark Forcucci. Wheaton North's strength -- and most experience -- offensively is along the offensive line. Linebacker Ross Dansdill and defensive back Tyler O'Connor return on defense, but the Falcons must replace nine starters on that side of the ball.

Lyons at Buffalo Grove

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First known meeting

About the Lions: Lyons last season made the playoffs for the first time since 2017, losing to eventual Class 8A state champion Lockport in the first round. Several starters return from that group. Junior lineman Eddie Tuerk holds 16 scholarship offers including Michigan and Iowa. Senior tight end Graham Smith, a Yale recruit, leads the receiving corps for junior QB Ryan Jackson, who made his varsity debut in Week 6 last season.

About the Bison: Buffalo Grove is coming off its best season since 2017, but graduated 37 seniors with just three starters returning. QB Michael Cervantes rushed for over 1,100 yards last season and is a dangerous runner. Speedy receiver/linebacker Anthony Palano is a top target and CJ Relias, who will anchor both lines, is the third returning starter.

Schaumburg at York

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: York 37, Schaumburg 7 (2021)

About the Saxons: Schaumburg has not been to the playoffs since 2017, but there is reason for optimism this fall with 12 starters returning. The defense should be a strength, led by three-year starters in linebackers Gabriel Dominguez, Jacob Acevedo and John Sanfilippo and defensive back Jake Peterson. The Saxons certainly hope for improved defense -- that unit gave up just under 32 points per game last season and Schaumburg dropped its last six games of the season.

About the Dukes: York is riding a ton of momentum into 2022. The Dukes last season reached the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with their most wins since 2010. Several key pieces of that team's core returns, joined by a junior class that went 9-0 on the sophomore team last season. Senior QB Matt Vezza is one the area's better dual-threat QBs. He also has his starting running back, Kelly Watson, and big-play receiver, Charlie Specht, back alongside him. Linebacher David Loch is the leader of a defense with an experienced secondary behind him.

Notre Dame at Willowbrook

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First known meeting

About the Dons: Notre Dame last season missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Senior quarterbacks Enzo Ricciardi and St. Ignatius transfer Coleman McDonagh are competing for the starting job. Ricciardi started all of the Dons' spring games in 2021 and played in 13 games last fall. Whoever is under center will be looking for Frankie Ricciardi, who will play running back and receiver on offense and also start at cornerback defensively. Senior lineman Karl Schmalz, a Brown commit, is a player to watch on the Dons' defense.

About the Warriors: Four starters return on offense and eight on defense for a Willowbrook program that last season made its fifth consecutive playoff quarterfinal appearance. Senior WR/DB Joey Tumilty is the man to watch. Tumilty was second on Willowbrook in tackles last season and had nearly 1,200 yards rushing and receiving with 13 TDs. Junior QB AJ Pawlicki is a third-year varsity starter. Linebacker Adrian Guerrero is another leader defensively. The Warriors swapped CCL/ESCC Week 1 opponents with Notre Dame after playing Providence in recent seasons.

Hinsdale South at Deerfield

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: Deerfield 39, Hinsdale South 16 (2021)

About the Hornets: Hinsdale South returns several starters from a team that finished 4-5 and narrowly missed the playoffs. Two-way starter Griffin Carr, who had 63 tackles and 11 sacks last season, is a two-time all-conference player and one to watch up front for the Hornets. Hinsdale South is a team with speed and big-play potential provided it executes.

About the Warriors: Deerfield last season reached the playoffs for the fifth time in six postseasons under head coach Steve Winiecki, winning the Central Suburban North title and reaching the second round of the playoffs for the second straight time.

Noblesville, Ind. at Benet

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Last matchup: First meeting

About Noblesville: Noblesville, from a town located just north of Indianapolis, actually started its 2022 season last week (Indiana starts a week earlier), beating defending Indiana Class 4A state champion Mt. Vernon 43-35. Mt. Vernon was also one of Noblesville's two wins last season. Noblesville ran for 388 yards and six rushing TDs in the game, with Logan Shoffner and Gage Gulley both going over 100 yards. Andrew Page, a 6-foot-3, 325-pound offensive lineman, is a top 50 senior recruit in Indiana committed to Kent State.

About the Redwings: Benet last season missed the playoffs for the second time since Pat New took over as coach in 2010. Pierce Walsh, a 6-foot-4, 212-pound Minnesota recruit tight end who is also expected to take snaps at wide receiver, provides a large target and is the man to watch. Tasked with getting him the ball will be Anthony Picciolini orJake Hoeppel, who have competed for the starting quarterback position over the summer. Picciolini started in eight games last season. Senior linebackers Dave Cservenyak and John Weidenbach anchor the Benet defense. This will be the first of two games against Indiana teams Benet will play. The Redwings will travel to South Bend to take on South Bend St. Joseph on Oct. 7.

Fenton at Elgin

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last matchup: Elgin 61, Fenton 7 (at Fenton 2021)

About Fenton: "In order for us to be successful, we will need to take care of the football, contain Elgin's speed as best as possible, gang tackle and compete for 48 minutes," Fenton coach Matt Lynch said. Keep an eye on Jordan Wilson, Thomas Klos and Richard Swanek III. "Our biggest progression is how well the players are coming together as a team," Lynch said.

About Elgin: Maroons coach Anthony Mason isn't putting too much stock into Week 1 scouting reports. "Being the first game, you never know what to expect, only film from the previous season," he said. "We are a totally different team and I am sure Fenton is as well. They have a lot of returners, that's something we have scouted. We have to focus on us and being sure we know what we are doing when we attack." James Syrek will be under center for Elgin in the opener. "James earned the starting spot after struggling last year," Mason said. "He has a lot to prove and talent to display." Wide receiver Jayden Yarber will be a prime Syrek target, while Mason calls linebacker Alexus Cordero a leader on the defense and someone who will be looked upon to control the game and make plays.

Larkin at Glenbard East

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: Glenbard East 24, Larkin 7 (at Glenbard East, 2021)

About Larkin: A playoff team a year ago, the Royals have plenty of talent back in Jahiem Vincent, as well as returning all-conference linebackers Jalen Miller and Hector Flores, who will anchor the defense. Vincent was an all-state triple jumper in the spring, "and since June has matured into one of our leaders," Royals coach Grant Dietz said. "He's very athletic and brings a fiery competitiveness to our offense." Dietz has seen plenty of progress over the last two seasons. "I like where we are as a program," he explained. "We have come a long way in a short amount of time. Our numbers are up, the players are working hard and have responded well to the new coaches on staff." Dietz knows the Royals will encounter a tough Glenbard East squad. "They are a well-coached football program," he said. "We have to execute our offense and not beat ourselves."

About Glenbard East: Rams coach John Walters is well aware of Larkin's improvement last season. "Obviously, starting the season off against a playoff team from last year is a challenge," he said. "We played them Week 1 last year in a physical game. We need to be consistent on both sides of the ball. Focus play in and play out. Our focus needs to be on us and how we do things. Guys are bought in and working hard toward our team goals. We are at the point where we need to play a game." Rams to watch? How about Troy Cooper, Delmario Taylor and Eric McCain out of the gates.

East Aurora at Glenbard South

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: Glenbard South 41, East Aurora 6 (at East Aurora, 2021)

About East Aurora: "East Aurora will be very athletic, aggressive and well-coached," Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey said. "Coach Kukoc always gets the best out of his team. We will need to play fundamentally sound football to be successful. Our speed and athleticism will be very helpful, but doing the little things right is what will make the difference."

About Glenbard South: Crissey said one marked difference since the summer is improved line play on both sides of the ball, terming the collective progression as "significant." "We are excited to see the battles at the line of scrimmage," he added. "Our practices are highly competitive. Lots of players are battling for starting spots and playing time." South has no shortage of talent. Junior wideout Cam Williams is a Notre Dame commit. "Cam should be a concern to all defenses," Crissey said. Williams had 671 receiving yards last year and 11 touchdowns. Senior defensive end-offensive tackle Owen Difranco is a University of Ohio commit. He's coming off a 2021 season where he led the team in sacks with 16. "I expect more of the same," Crissey said. "Offensive coordinators need to be mindful of his alignment every snap." Junior quarterback Michael Champagne, Crissey said, is poised for a breakout season with plenty of weapons to work with. "I would not be surprised if Michael were to throw for 2,000 yards this season," he added.

South Elgin at West Chicago

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: South Elgin 70, West Chicago 0 (at West Chicago, 2021)

About South Elgin: South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic played in high school with new West Chicago coach Adam Chavez. "Adam is a good friend and I think will do a fantastic job there," He is the ideal fit for the community and the program. We have a lot of respect for their team and we will be tested by the triple option scheme. As the years go on, West Chicago football will only get better. Week 1 is always its own challenge, and we have a lot of questions because of our youth and inexperience. Will we be tough? Will we tackle well? How will we deal with adversity? How will we cover kickoffs and punts? These are all concerns going into Week 1." Teonic said overall team strength has improved to the point it's at the highest level he's seen since being at South Elgin. Players such as Kyle Steinhofer, Jordna Green and Ari Kravis, Teonic noted, had great summers, and returners such as Nathan Dinse, Tommy Roath, Jake Sullivan, Vince Costante and Michael Tringali also have excelled in the offseason. Steinhofer will play on both sides of the ball, while Tringali is the team's only returning defensive starter. "Michael is a dominant linebacker," Teonic said. "We only gave up 72 points in 11 games in 2021, and we're looking for Michael to have a great season this year. He should be on everyone's radar, but an injury has slowed down his recruitment." Also keep a watch on two-way lineman Eddie Ramirez, who bench presses 300 pounds, squats 485 and dead lifts 700. "In typical South Elgin fashion, he is as smart and tough as they come," Teonic said. "He has an incredible work ethic and strength and that should be a cornerstone for us."

About West Chicago: "South Elgin will post a great challenge for us Week 1," Chavez said. "They are one of the top teams in the state. They are very well-coached and play sound schemes on both sides of the ball. We will have to play error-free assignment football in order to have a chance." Chavez likes the progression of A-back Jaden Bates and B-back Vincent Muci. "Jaden is an explosive athlete who has big play potential," he said. "Vincent is a tough, physical runner who is our strongest player on the team." Krystian Roldan and Adrain Munoz will both play the quarterback position. "Both kids bring a different dimension," Chavez said.

Walther Christian at Westmont

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last matchup: Walther Christian 15, Westmont 8 (2021 at Walther)

About Walther Christian: "Walther Christian will definitely bring a challenge to us as they will bring quite a few returning players," Westmont coach Taj Jackson said. "To be successful, we must control the time of possession, limit any type of mistakes, be athletes and make stops on the defensive side of the ball. Stated in some of our core values: Play smart, be scrappy, tough and disciplined."

About Westmont: Westmont lost 12 seniors from a year ago and return only 4 seniors and 1 junior to the roster. "We are a very young team. We are rebuilding," Jackson said. "Most definitely, a tough challenge. The biggest progression for us is that we are a very young team. Our campaign this season is "going back to basics." From Day 1, we have taught the game from the field and in the classroom. We have become a smarter team than in the past. Jackson said Westmont has the most linemen it has had in years. "I'm excited about that," he said. One of those linemen is three-year offensive lineman Kamron Singleton. "His leadership will help give more confidence in our young guys." Singleton also will play linebacker. Running back-linebacker Darius Stevenson leads the way for the Sentinels. He's a two-time all-conference player. Lucas Fears, just a sophomore, will be counted on at safety and H-back. "This kid is an all-around athlete," Jackson said.

St. Francis at Lake Forest

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last matchup: Lake Forest 41, St. Francis 24 (Week 1 at St. Francis)

About St. Francis: Coming off an 8-3 season, the Spartans have plenty to be excited about. Two-way lineman TJ McMillen is committed to Illinois and has been voted the best OL-DL in the conference the last two years. Running back-defensive back Amari Head has put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and will be St. Francis' featured back. "He looks more explosive and faster. He should have a breakout season," St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said. Quarterback Alessio Milivojevic (6-2, 200) has offers from Ole Miss and Bowling Green, McMillen noted. "He can make all the throws, is a leader and a person that works on his game consistently," he said. McMillen added leadership and maturity have been the Spartans' biggest progressions heading into the season-opener. "The guys have been pushing each other hard in practice and holding each other accountable," he said. "They are showing up early for meetings and practice, and staying late to make sure they understand everything."

About Lake Forest: The Scouts are coming off a state semifinal appearance a year ago. "Lake Forest is a very tough team," McMillen said. "We need to be able to protect and block up front. They like to blitz a lot. Our quarterback has to have time to get the ball out and give our wide receivers a chance to make some plays. We need to establish the run. We are big up front and we need to move people and open holes."

Marian Central Catholic at Wheaton Academy

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

About Marian Central: "Look, everyone knows Marian Central hasn't made the playoffs in the past three or so years, but you can't for a moment group this program with others in the same situation," Wheaton Academy coach Jim Johanik said. "The schedule they played over this period is flat-out tough and on film they played well. This is a tough Week 1 opponent with a storied and proud history. We know Marian can't afford to come into Week 1 with us being anything but prepared. We have to gain confidence and become veterans quickly. We have more than a few guys with athletic giftedness, but they lack playing time. If we stay healthy, we should be a better team as the season progresses and this experience kicks in."

About Wheaton Academy: Senior quarterback Belay Brummel threw 12 touchdowns against 0 interceptions last year playing behind a senior captain in 2021. "He's stepped up further in his role this summer," Johanik said. "He can get the ball to anywhere on the field in a hurry." Senior two-way lineman Jaret Jawor is a transfer from Lincoln-Way Central and is also a lacrosse standout. Fellow lineman Ethan Brunner is the youngest brother of four to come through the school. "Ethan is off-the-charts intelligent and it shows in his offensive line play," Johanik said. Johanik likes what he has seen this summer and through the preseason. "This team has been coached hard and they have responded well, probably better than any team I have been a part of, given where we started from."

Harvard (2-7) at Lisle (7-4)

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Last matchup: Lisle defeated Harvard, 26-16, in last year's season opener.

About the Hornets: Harvard lost two of its games by forfeit because of COVID-19 protocols last season. … Landon Barrett will move from running back to quarterback for the Hornets, replacing Lee Galarza, who graduated. … Hornets coach Sean Saylor hopes Wyatt Lamz, Lucas Waldo, Jacob Krass, Brian Cordova and Sean Ritschke will take on big roles for a team that graduated a substantial number of starters.

About the Lions: Lisle defeated Chicago Carver in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs, then fell to eventual state champion Byron in the second round. It was the Lions' third consecutive playoff trip. … Lisle did graduate a lot of last year's top performers. Some of its top returning players are OL-DL Chris Farrell, OL-LB Joe Raineri and RB-DB Dominic Nigro, all third-year starters.

-- Compiled by Mike Miazga, and Joshua Welge (Shaw Local)

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